If congressional candidate Amanda Siebe is any indication, the next class of Congress could be the most transparently pro-marijuana in history, embracing not just legislative reform but also the culture of cannabis as consumers and patients.
The Democratic candidate, who is running for a House seat in Oregon, has spent part of her time in coronavirus-imposed social isolation this month openly talking on Twitter about consuming and cultivating cannabis herself.
Gone are the days of “I didn’t inhale” politics, apparently. Here are the days of people running for federal office while posting pictures of themselves smoking joints and growing marijuana plants.
— #Siebe2020 for US House (@SiebeforORD1) April 13, 2020
Siebe, a registered medical cannabis patient who is challenging incumbent Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), talked about her experience cultivating cannabis and showcased a few plants she’s been growing. The candidate said she currently has nine seedlings in the works.
My little babies are growing!
Keep thinking girly thoughts!
Common ladies!! pic.twitter.com/6dG55iahgg
— #Siebe2020 for US House (@SiebeforORD1) April 12, 2020
“Marijuana is actually pretty hearty,” she wrote last week. “Put a couple seeds in a big pot & water. As you grow more you can bonzi it & make it produce more, but until you get a hand on growing it, you can just let it do its thing.”
Marijuana is actually pretty hearty. Put a couple seeds in a big pot & water. As you grow more you can bonzi it & make it produce more, but until you get a hand on growing it, you can just let it do its thing.
— #Siebe2020 for US House (@SiebeforORD1) April 10, 2020
In a phone interview with Marijuana Moment on Thursday, the candidate said the issue of marijuana reform is personal to her, as she relies on medical cannabis to treat symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome.
“For me, it’s part of my everyday life. It’s not just what I do, it treats my medical condition. Without cannabis, I don’t have any quality of life,” she said. “I’m to the point where I’m done hiding it. We need change and we need it now, and the only way we’re going to get it is if we have representatives that stand up and are willing to admit that they do it.”
Asked whether she was concerned that opponents could use her social media posts of her smoking cannabis or growing plants against her, Siebe said “I’m sure they could, but I’m not worried about it.”
“The support for marijuana and medical marijuana is so high not just in Oregon but across the country,” she said. “I’m honest. People are going to see and get what they get. There’s no reason to hide it. Hiding it makes it look like we’re ashamed and I’m not ashamed.”
Siebe is also in favor of ensuring that certain amounts of medical cannabis are free to patients under a universal health care model, while recreational sales would continue to be taxed.
The goal under #MedicareForAll is that we'd have the ability to get a certain amount per month for free with just a doctor's prescription, but then we'd have regular recreational marijuana for everyone else.
— #Siebe2020 for US House (@SiebeforORD1) April 10, 2020
Part of her platform also involves broadly ending the war on drugs. Her campaign website states that it’s “time to stop throwing the poor and minorities in jail for drug offenses.”
I am a #MedicalMarijuana patient.
But because I live federally subsidized apartments, every time I light up I'm risking my housing due to the fact the federal government still considers #Marijuana a Schedule 1 Drug with no medical uses.
— #Siebe2020 for US House (@SiebeforORD1) April 15, 2020
“We need to decriminalize all drugs and stop treating addiction as a criminal offense,” it continues. “It’s time to start treating addiction as the mental health issue it is. No one should be placed in jail for using drugs. Those suffering from addiction are medical patients and they deserve proper treatment for their medical conditions.”
Ben Emard, whose primary challenge to unseat incumbent Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) fell short last month, also embraced his cannabis use in a reply to a tweet last week.
“Name five things that are helping you get through your coronavirus quarantine,” a Newsweek columnist posted.
“Legal cannabis. Is that five?” the candidate joked.
Legal cannabis. Is that five?
— Ben Emard (@BAEforCongress) April 9, 2020
“It is time to acknowledge that the war on drugs is an absolute disaster of a policy,” his campaign website says. “Although the war on drugs was justified with promises that it would reduce crime, studies show that prohibition policies actually lead to an increase in organized crime. Additionally, the war on drugs has led to the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Americans, most of whom are black, for non-violent drug offenses.”
“To address these issues, I will work to end the war on drugs, legalize recreational marijuana use on the federal level, and overturn the convictions of all non-violent drug offenders,” it continues.
Anthony Clark, an Illinois candidate who ran an unsuccessful primary challenge against a Democratic congressional incumbent this year, made waves after he smoked marijuana in a campaign ad while discussing his personal experience with cannabis and the need for federal reform. In February, he hosted a “first ever congressional weed party” in a campaign video.
— Anthony Clark in the Struggle (@anthonyvclark20) February 20, 2020
California, Oregon and Illinois have all legalized marijuana for medical and adult use, and the activities the candidates have engaged in are allowable under state law. What makes things interesting, of course, is that they’re seeking office at the federal level, where cannabis remains strictly prohibited.
Advocates are quick to point out that as more states have legalized, a growing number of members of Congress have embraced reform and are pushing for a federal policy change. But while some have admitted to past cannabis use, they certainly aren’t posting selfies showing them violating federal law today.
That said, several lawmakers have visited marijuana farms, companies and state-legal dispensaries, at least. And Rep. James Comer (R-KY) brought CBD oil products he uses to a committee hearing last year.
At the state level, a handful of politicians have participated in legal markets—including Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton (D), who bought cannabis products from a retailer on the first day of legal sales in the state. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said last year that while he doesn’t smoke marijuana, “I do grow it legally,” but a spokesperson later clarified that he was broadly referring to legal cultivation in the state.
Photo courtesy of Twitter/Amanda Siebe.
Missouri Lawmakers Defeat Amendment To Require They Consume Marijuana Before Voting
Missouri lawmakers rejected an amendment to a health care bill on Thursday that would have required House members to consume a “substantial” amount of marijuana before performing their legislative duties.
The amendment, introduced by Rep. Andrew McDaniel (R), was defeated in a voice vote—though a reporter in the room said he heard a few “ayes.”
Text of the measure stipulated that “members of the Missouri House shall consume a substantial dose of medicinal marijuana prior to entering the chamber or voting on any legislation.”
McDaniel told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview that, this time of year, lawmakers tend to pile on amendments to bills. The current health care-focused legislation has “a whole bunch of crap” that’s been attached to it, he said, and so he saw an opportunity to “get everyone to chill out and get a little chuckle” with his proposal.
— Andrew McDaniel (@drurep150) May 7, 2020
The hope was also that it could “get them all to pay attention” and “quit messing it up,” he said.
The lawmaker said he similarly heard some “aye” votes from the chamber, though he said he wasn’t going to force people to go on the record with a roll call vote.
It was just shot down by a voice vote. But pretty sure I heard some "Ayes" https://t.co/9uEFBgb3Mj
— Tynan Stewart (@tynanstewart) May 7, 2020
“It was just for fun—simmer down, bring up a little bit of laughter in such a somber environment of the times we’re in,” McDaniel said.
Erik Alteri, executive director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment that he appreciated the sentiment.
“During these trying times we all could certainly use a laugh which this amendment provided. Though having state legislators imbibe before session might not be the worst thing to encourage cooperation for the public good,” he said. “At the very least perhaps opponents of ending our failed probation on cannabis may finally realize they are ruining hundreds of thousands of lives per year over a plant.”
Another part of the inspiration behind the lawmaker’s amendment was a more serious provision of the overall legislation that provides protections for registered cannabis patients against having their registration in the program reported to the federal government.
The bill, SB 580, states that “no state agency, including employees therein, shall disclose to the federal government, any federal government employee, or any unauthorized third party, the statewide list or any individual information of persons who have applied for or obtained a medical marijuana card.”
McDaniel said that he supports both medical and adult-use cannabis legalization, though constituents in his district haven’t gotten on board with broader reform and so he doesn’t have immediate plans to introduce actionable legislation to that end. The legislator described himself as having a libertarian perspective on the issue.
He did sponsor a bill in 2018 that would have made a constitutional amendment establishing a limited medical cannabis program in the state. That came before voters approved more a far-reaching medical marijuana legalization measure during the November election that year.
Last month, a campaign to legalize marijuana in Missouri officially ended its bid to qualify for this year’s general election ballot due to signature gathering difficulties caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.
Marijuana Bumper Stickers? No Thanks, Drivers Say In National Survey
Even as a growing number of states are enacting legalization laws, stigma around marijuana is alive and well in the United States—at least according to a recent survey about the kinds of bumper stickers America’s drivers are willing to put on their vehicles.
Drivers said they would be less open to displaying a cannabis-related decal than ones featuring messages surrounding other controversial topics, such as politics, religion, gun ownership or even President Trump.
Of those who wouldn’t sport a cannabis bumper sticker on their cars, most said they worried it would affect how police would perceive them.
The survey of 1,195 people asked whether drivers would be willing to display various bumper-sticker messages, including their “support for/opposition to marijuana.” Of all the topics asked about, cannabis was the least popular, with only 34 percent of respondents saying they’d consider such a decal.
By comparison, 53 percent said they would be willing to advertise their views on gun ownership, 44 percent said they would display their religious identity and 42 percent said they would share their stance on President Trump.
The survey was conducted by SafeHome.org, a website that publishes consumer information about home and personal safety. The company acknowledges that the data “rely on self-reporting,” which doesn’t always provide the most reliable conclusions. “There are many issues with self-reported data,” the site points out. “These issues include, but are not limited to, selective memory, telescoping, attribution and exaggeration.”
The poll nevertheless provides a glimpse into what at least some Americans are thinking when they weigh what views to broadcast on the road.
When drivers who said they wouldn’t display marijuana messages were asked what made them hesitate, 59 percent said they believed it would “affect how police perceive me.” Nearly half (45 percent) said they thought “it looks tacky”—more than any other topic but Trump.
Roughly a third of drivers who said they wouldn’t sport a cannabis bumper sticker said the topic was too personal (35 percent), it would affect how other drivers would perceive them (32 percent) or that they simply didn’t care enough about it (31 percent).
The survey also asked respondents about whether they believed their existing bumper stickers had indeed attracted unwanted attention, either from police or fellow drivers. Marijuana, however, was not included in that section of the survey. Among issues people believed they were pulled over unfairly for, “endorsement of racial identity/equality” ranked highest. When it came to aggression from other drivers, “support of/opposition to President Trump” was the top response.
Whether or not a weed bumper sticker makes someone more likely to be pulled over, it’s easy to see why drivers may have that fear. In many states, law enforcement organizations remain among the most stubborn opponents to legalization, and among their most common arguments is that legalization will make America’s roads more dangerous. Available data, however, are less clear on that subject.
Some research has found that traffic fatalities went down after legalization while overall accidents went up, a result that could be the result of drivers drinking less alcohol. The effects also seem to vary from state to state. A 2019 congressional report acknowledged the lack of a clear consensus on marijuana’s impact on driver safety. “Although laboratory studies have shown that marijuana consumption can affect a person’s response times and motor performance,” the Congressional Research Service wrote, “studies of the impact of marijuana consumption on a driver’s risk of being involved in a crash have produced conflicting results, with some studies finding little or no increased risk of a crash from marijuana usage.”
Cannabis, of course, is also the only item in the new bumper sticker survey that is directly attributable to motor impairment. That, combined with the fact that marijuana remains illegal in much of the country, is likely to make drivers think twice about slapping a weed-friendly bumper sticker on the back of their car.
Despite the controversy, however, most Americans support legalization at rates of between 60 percent and 70 percent, according to recent national polls. And a recent YouGov survey found that 55 percent of respondents said that legalization was either a complete success or “more of a success than a failure.”
Constitutionally speaking, Americans have a First Amendment right to political speech, and courts have ruled that bumper stickers generally fall under that protection. And political statements, even those supporting marijuana or its legalization in areas where it’s still illegal, aren’t themselves evidence that a person has violated any laws.
In practice, however, it’s still possible for law enforcement to target individuals for mundane reasons like bumper stickers only to later cite a different, more valid reason to justify a traffic stop. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it seems the best way to avoid attention when driving is to keep your car au naturel: Vehicles with at least one controversial decal on them, the SafeHome.org survey found, were almost three times more likely to be pulled over during the past year.
Police Departments In Legal And Illegal Marijuana States Play Into 4/20 With Jokes And Puns
In legal marijuana states and those that maintain prohibition alike, police departments evidently wanted to get some giggles on the marijuana holiday 4/20.
On Monday, social media accounts for the Fort Collins Police Department in Colorado, the Bath Township Police Department in Michigan and the Wyoming Police Department in Minnesota shared posts in recognition of the annual occasion.
Cannabis is legal for recreational use in Colorado and Michigan but not Minnesota—which makes at least one of the posts a bit awkward given the criminal justice implications of ongoing prohibition for most adults.
In Fort Collins, the department shared a Tiger King-themed infographic explaining state regulations, riffing off the popular Netflix documentary series about a rivalry between two competing exotic animal companies. The visual explains rules around age requirements, personal cultivation and allowable consumption practices.
We'll be blunt – if you're ganja partake in 4/20 activities, weed preefer if you consume responsibly. Don't get your mota running – driving while impaired is illegal. Know your limits & follow the law (helpful chart below). Share this info with your buds. Dank you & be safe! pic.twitter.com/hGcElntQ34
— Fort Collins Police (@FCPolice) April 20, 2020
For those 21 and older, the department asked how the person reading the infographic plans to obtain cannabis.
“From that lady… Carole Baskin. I hear she’s nice,” one option reads. That response leads to a blurb stating, “File in the ‘Bad Ideas’ folder next to petting tigers.”
“We’ll be blunt – if you’re ganja partake in 4/20 activities, weed preefer if you consume responsibly,” the department said on Twitter. “Don’t get your mota running – driving while impaired is illegal. Know your limits & follow the law (helpful chart below). Share this info with your buds. Dank you & be safe!”
Another law enforcement agency that really got into marijuana puns on 4/20 is the Bath Township Police Department, which posted a notice about social distancing on the holiday rife with cannabis terminology.
“Weed not be doing our jobs if we didn’t remind you all that social distancing is still important. It’s a joint effort between all of us, from Herb to Mary Jane,” a Facebook post states. “Doobie cautious and avoid social gatherings such as pot lucks. If you’re out blazing some fall leaves or chatting with neighbors make sure to stay on your side of the grass.”
“Hash out issues with your family peacefully even if they’re acting like a little roach. Today is 4/20 which means we’re closer to being able to hang out with our buds again which will be pretty dope,” it continues. “So reefer to the guidelines until then and stay safe. “And we’re aware of the difficulties faced by everyone as they cannot get together today to celebrate Carmen Electra’s birthday.”
The Wyoming Police Department in Minnesota, where medical cannabis is legal, also played off the coronavirus pandemic for its 4/20 post. In a short segment, two officers explain that they have two tasks—getting rid of confiscated marijuana in evidence and testing face masks to prevent the spread of the virus—and they decide to tackle them at the same time.
You see where this is going…
Wyoming Police Department presents our 2020 420 video for your enjoyment! pic.twitter.com/jxAWMn8kCn
— Wyoming (MN) Police (@wyomingpd) April 20, 2020
After heading back to the evidence room, the officers return and one goes straight for the pantry and pulls out cereal and Mountain Dew. Get it? His mask didn’t work and he accidentally got high from the fumes of incinerating marijuana the department seized as part of a statewide policy of criminalizing the plant and consumers.
It’s supposed to be funny—until you think about the fact that Minnesota ranks in the top 10 states with the greatest racial disparities in cannabis enforcement, as ACLU documented in a report released on Monday.